An exciting announcement from Fantagraphics Books: after only twelve weeks, Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree Book One is going back to press for a third printing. The historical account—in graphic novel form—of hip-hop music and culture hit shelves December 11, 2013, and the first printing sold out within a month. A second printing sold out even more quickly after hitting stores in early March.
The book is beloved by critics as much as fans. The Washington Post: “Piskor’s book feels just as real and authentic as the retro rap it celebrates.” NPR calls the series “a real fusion of both art forms”; it continues, “Piskor tells the gripping origin story of hip-hop in storyboard form with original artwork. Illuminating for kids and grown-ups alike.”
“I’m literally making a comic that I want to read,” says cartoonist Ed Piskor. “I feel like Hip Hop Family Tree is a comic I was born to draw and it’s an absolute pleasure that people seem to dig it too. Truthfully, though, I’d be lying if I said I was surprised about the reaction from readers.”
While fans await the third printing of Book One and the forthcoming Book Two, Free Comic Book Day on May 3 will afford an opportunity to introduce new readers to the series, as Fantagraphics will distribute—for FREE—Hip Hop Family Tree Two-in-One comic book, which features all-new pin-ups and other exclusive content not in the books, as well as selections from Book One and the as yet unreleased Book Two.
With the release of Hip Hop Family Tree Book Two set for August, both cartoonist and publisher alike are gearing up for a full schedule of book signings and special events tied in with the book. Piskor will be in appearance at comics festivals around the world from PIX in Pittsburgh, to Comic Salon in Erlangen Germany, then SPX in Bethesda, to APE in San Francisco, and many more. Along with signings at The Beguiling in Toronto for Free Comic Book Day and book launch celebrations at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle, Bridge City Comics in Portland, and City Lights in San Francisco.
Lastly, it’s never too early to start thinking about the gift-giving season: this November will see the release of a collector’s edition boxed set, collecting Books One and Two in a custom hardcover slipcase designed and illustrated by Piskor. This set will feature all-new cover art on each book, as well as another exclusive item unavailable anywhere else: Hip Hop Family Tree #300, an all-new 24-page comic book that celebrates a historic confluence of hip-hop and comic book culture, when Spike Lee directed Image Comics co-founder Rob Liefeld in a Levi’s Jeans commercial, which Piskor tells in a pitch- perfect visual parody / pastiche / homage to the Image house style of the 1990s as defined by Liefeld, McFarlane, etc.
The man. His work. They coexist on the cover and in the pages of Pirates in the Heartland: The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson Vol. 1, compiling Wilson's seminal underground comix work along with the first part of Patrick Rosenkranz's authoritative biography. Wilson unleashed a cannon barrage on the boundaries of the comics art form and rushed through, flintlocks blazing, cutlass in teeth, and fly open, taking no prisoners with his outrageous output. This book, combined with its two forthcoming sequels, will be the last word and the ultimate collection of a comics legend. Look for more previews between now and its release this summer.
And for lots more insight into the cover design, art director Jacob Covey wrote these notes on his personal Facebook page, re-presented here with his kind permission:
Here's the cover design for the new Fantagraphics book from Patrick Rosenkranz, The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson, Volume One: Pirates In the Heartland. This is the result of more comps than I have ever produced before and I figured I'd write about it to get at some idea of why.
For one thing, I went into this project with little enthusiasm. Wilson is a pioneering Underground Comix artist who inspired R. Crumb to let loose his id, to break comics wide open for self-expression. But Wilson on the surface -- and after forty years of being built upon (back to before I was born) -- lacks the contrasting dignity of Crumb's linework and his compositions are DENSE. Wilson art is recognizable: His line, and his humor, is crass; there is no white space and there are no taboos.
There are artists you have to recalibrate for and, for me, Wilson turns out to be one of those. It took a lot of sitting with the stories to let down my guard and enjoy how powerful the work is. A lot of artists talk about wanting to get back to creating like a kid again. Wilson manages to remain as unfiltered as an adolescent in detention. His is not the art of an innocent kindergartner who draws fanciful anatomy in a surreal landscape but that of the self-realizing, hormone-raging, unclean middle-beast that is boys who are becoming men. He still draws like a kid, just not the kid we romanticize about. At a time when most of us become self-conscious and begin self-censoring Wilson did not.
That accomplishment in itself is remarkable but his relentless creating is the application that makes him genius. Wilson seems to exist solely to get his sprawling imagination down on paper. His prolific output is that of the consummate artist. That it is also very graphic, violent, and offensive to most all social norms takes a little adjusting to.
So all of this is what I had to assimilate just to start my job. To feel like I had enough grasp on Wilson to "brand" his life by designing this cover to (volume one of) his biography. My first attempts weren't about Wilson but associations with his Underground brethren and the psychedelia connected to the period. Pinks, Cyans, solid clashing color. All completely missing the character of Wilson. Wilson was (is) certainly a drug user but of the escapist, rebellious variety, not the trippy, feel-good variety. He's a meat-and-potatoes guy who creates fevered worlds, including his own. Hence the title "The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson" -- a smart nuance on the part of Rosenkranz.
In publishing, one has to approach a cover with the information of an expert and the ignorance of a browser. In biographies, a photo of the subject is generally employed for good reason: The viewer immediately knows this is a book about a person. (Hence the trend in fiction of generally cropping off the heads of models or having them looking away -- this is not about THEM.) But Wilson is recognizable only by his artwork, so a photo alone isn't enough information. Ultimately, my solution is a kind of psychedelia but a practical one: Pirate art (a favorite theme of Wilson) overlaying a mythic portrait of young Wilson. Creation and creator in color overlays that force your eye to try to unhook one from the other.
I generally consider it a failure when cover design requires a band of color upon which to set the type. In this case, it allowed for the art to be the primary feature, to be a bit uncontrolled, while the type treatment is an anchor that harkens classic album design. This kind of visual messaging is trying to align Wilson with rebels and rockstars without making false promises. The trickiest part was simply finding Wilson art that had ANY white space so his portrait could connect with the viewer. The dual function of his artwork blowing the brains out, simultaneously, of Wilson and another of Wilson's creation was too wonderful to pass up but I'm going to leave the symbology of such things to the viewer.
For the new softcover editions, we redesigned The Complete Peanuts inside and out, as you can see in these snapshots of a just-arrived advance copy of the kick-off volume, The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952. Looks pretty snappy, huh?
Even if you've been collecting the hardcover volumes, you'll want to have these affordable paperbacks around for the kids and for loaning out or giving as gifts to friends and relatives, and of course the brilliance of Charles M. Schulz's beloved strip endures no matter what the format. Pre-order your copy (it'll be available a couple of months from now) and read a free excerpt right here.
Steve Ditko is such a great image-maker, it must be hard for our designers to choose artwork for the covers of our Steve Ditko Archives collections of his early, pre-Marvel work. With Volume 1, Strange Suspense, we got a chance to make a double dip from the deep Ditko inkwell for our new softcover reprint, coming this summer with this newly-designed cover. Behind you, lady!! Stay tuned for more sneak peeks. (Of course, if you don't want to wait to read this book, it's available digitally right now on comiXology.)
If there's anyone out there who's been holding out for a softcover edition of The Complete Peanuts, your patience is soon to pay off! Or if you're late to the Peanuts party and want to start from the beginning, now is the time. Our paperback of The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952, the first volume in our definitive, unexpurgated collection of Charles M. Schulz's decades-spanning masterpiece, is due in a couple of months, and we have a bunch of pages to share with you!
We've pulled our downloadable excerpt from the middle of the book at the beginning of 1952, when Schulz began doing Sundays, with five full weeks of strips for your enjoyment! Reserve your copy today for delivery in May.
Launched today, a new webcomic serial by the one and only Richard Sala! Super-Enigmatix introduces the titular masked and caped criminal mastermind. What kind of conspiracy is he weaving, and can former Inspector Jory and former Detective Charms unravel it? Tune in every Thursday for new installments!
This pulpy story is your first taste of what's to come in our forthcoming collection of all-new Sala short stories, In a Glass Grotesquely, due this Fall!
Our recent book Vip: The Mad World of Virgil Partch, massive as it is, still only skims the surface of Partch's work. With Cork High and Bottle Deep, coming this summer, we plunge a swizzle stick into the depths of one aspect of his prolific career: boozy cartoons! Nothing amplifies the human comedy more than liquorous libations, and nobody captured mankind's firewater-fueled foibles like Vip. We've bottled the bacchanal up in this classy, minimalist cover worthy of your top shelf. Put it on your tab now and we'll serve it up to you as soon as it's available.
A beautiful little book about god-awful occurrences, Conor Stechschulte's debut The Amateurs has arrived at the office in a bundle of advance copies. Two butchers in rural, pre-industrial America are afflicted with mysterious selective amnesia and an inexplicable dedication to their job; the results are absurd and disastrous, and the story is framed with hints of the supernatural. It would be a comedy of errors if it weren't all so horrifying.
This unsettling, kinetic, and breathtaking graphic novella arrives in stores in May; read an 8-page excerpt and pre-order your copy right here.
Judgment Day approacheth! Our next EC Comics Library volume collects science fiction stories deftly illustrated by Joe Orlando (who went on to some renown one step up the alphabet at DC Comics) and scripted by the mighty Al Feldstein (sometimes from Ray Bradbury stories). Beyond the usual robots, spaceships, aliens, time travel, horrible death, and ironic reversals we all love so much, there are two items of particular historical note in this volume: the groundbreaking, taboo-busting title story, and EC's only serialized tales, the "Adam Link" adaptations.
Don't wait until our alien overlords return to judge us: read the former story, plus two others, and reserve your copy for delivery in May, right here.
Happiness is a new Peanuts book on my desk! Here's a just-delivered advance copy of The Complete Peanuts 1991-1992 by Charles M. Schulz — Vol. 21 in the series. Marcie on the cover, two full years of daily and Sunday strips in crisp black and white inside, an introduction by Tom Tomorrow, and those thoughtful design touches by Seth that make these books so inviting... ahhh. Don't you just want to hug it?
If you missed it, we shared the first month of strips for free, and we're taking pre-orders for delivery in May — get all the info and take action right here.